Tribute For Abraham Vega, 48, ‘Peacemaking’ Texas Sheriff, Dies

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Abraham Vega and Rachel Curry had first met at high school football games in Tahoka, Texas, when she was covering them as a photographer for the school newspaper and he was doing the same for The Lynn County Times. They eventually went their separate ways, married, had two children each and divorced.

Then it was time for a second chapter. Mr. Vega and Ms. Curry reunited in 2017 and married the following year in what seemed like a storybook beginning to a new life.

“People who knew us told us, ‘You can tell on your faces you made a difference in each other’s lives,’” Ms. Vega said in a phone interview.

By then Mr. Vega was sheriff of Lynn County, in northwest Texas — Lynn’s first Hispanic sheriff, according to his wife — and his career was flourishing. He was renominated in March as the Republican candidate for the job. His tiny jurisdiction, which is home to about 5,000 people and a 48-bed jail, is largely Republican, and the party nomination is tantamount to re-election ahead of the November vote.

As the coronavirus pandemic surged in Texas in recent weeks, Sheriff Vega thought he had taken every precaution against being infected, his wife said.

“He had underlying conditions and was so scared of getting it, that except for the office, he wouldn’t go out,” Ms. Vega said. “I would go to the grocery store. But then, last month, a colleague tested positive. The next day, Abraham did, too.”

Mr. Vega was admitted to a Lubbock hospital, where he spent two weeks, including nine days on a ventilator. He was then airlifted to a larger medical center in Dallas and died there on Saturday. He was 48.

The day he entered the hospital was the couple’s second wedding anniversary.

“That was the last time I saw him,” Ms. Vega, who also tested positive for the virus but was asymptomatic, said.

Abraham Martin Vega was born on Nov. 7, 1971, in Brownsville, Texas, to Abelardo Vega, who worked for a telephone company, and Rachel Corona Saldana, an elementary schoolteacher.

Along with his wife, who is a teacher and executive director of the Texas Chief Deputies Association, his survivors include his parents; two children from his first marriage, Marcus and Cori Vega; two stepchildren from his second marriage, Kaitlyn Lehman and Curry Lehman; his brother, Mark Vega; his sister, Felicia Valleja; and a granddaughter.

After graduating from Tahoka High School, Mr. Vega was uncertain about a career, though he was inspired by the commitment of a state trooper who counseled him, his wife said. He went to work as a dispatcher in the sheriff’s office when he was 19 and never left law enforcement.

Mr. Vega was a jail administrator, chief of the school district police, deputy sheriff and president of the Texas Chief Deputies Association in 2016, the same year he was elected to a four-year term as Lynn County sheriff.

By leasing vacant cells to incarcerate inmates from other jurisdictions, he earned the county more than $1 million, appointed a deputy to reduce truancy and encouraged his staff members to further their educations.

“He wasn’t the chase ’em down kind of police officer,” Ms. Vega said. “He had a servant’s heart, and that’s what made him a peace officer.”

Indeed, Mr. Vega had that idea tattooed on his chest, a phrase from the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

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